Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 7, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018):
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon invests in ongoing employee development, offering tuition subsidies for courses directly and indirectly related to an employees' current role -- additionally, Blakes recently hosted a firm-wide retreat in Arizona, which featured external speakers and a variety of training and development opportunities
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon is an active member of the community, providing over 11,000 hours of pro bono legal services to a number of organizations in the past year, including Connect Legal, a Toronto-based not-for-profit corporate legal clinic that connects immigrant entrepreneurs with commercial lawyers for free legal help
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon supports employees who are new mothers with maternity leave top-up payments, ranging from 6 to 25 weeks depending on their position, and maintains a New Mothers Network at its Toronto office to provide female lawyers with a forum to discuss balancing careers and family demands
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 27, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017):
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon maintains a strong focus on creating diverse pipelines for recruitment, supporting a number of student organizations including the Black Law Students Association of Canada and the Korean Law Students' Association -- additionally, the firm offers the Blakes/Juriansz Inclusivity Fund to support student-led initiatives and organizations that promote recognition and respect for diversity, inclusion and accessibility
- Blake, Cassels & Graydon participates in "Dare to Dream", a program organized by Canadian Lawyers Abroad to encourage Canadian law firms and businesses to increase opportunities for Aboriginal youth and their families -- the firm also partners with one of its clients to offer the Blakes Indigenous Summer Student program, a joint internship to provide work experience in legal and banking/corporate environments
- For the past decade, Blake, Cassels & Graydon has provided support, mentorship, networking opportunities and personal and professional resources for its female employees through the "Women@Blakes" network -- the network maintains an internal website, publishes quarterly newsletters and organizes internal and external seminars and events, such as the firm's annual Women's Event, which recently featured over 500 attendees
"Six years ago, the Equity and Diversity Pre-law Internship program at Blakes gave me the first foothold for my legal career and the confidence I needed as a visible minority and first-generation immigrant to even consider working on Bay Street. The Firm's commitment to diversity is genuine and consistent -- I have a great support network of colleagues and I am thrilled to 'pay it forward' by mentoring and supporting other diverse students." Temisan Boyo, Associate
Inclusion at Blakes means being your true self
For a long while, Mary Jackson didn't talk freely about her father's suicide. She felt that she could have done something more to prevent his premature death and didn't want to discuss the tragedy. But now the Chief Officer, Professional Resources at Blake, Cassels & Graydon (Blakes) in Toronto speaks openly about it, encouraged by her firm's diversity initiatives that support a climate of inclusiveness and support. "I hope my frankness will make it easier for others to share - and live with - their own experiences with mental illness," Jackson says. "By speaking about it to colleagues, I have learned that others have had similar experiences.
"When you are expending energy covering up your reality, you are not being honest about who you are, and that affects your well-being as well as your work. For too long, for example, members of the gay and lesbian community were restrained when discussing their lives outside of work with co-workers. We are trying to change all that." She adds, "Inclusion is about ensuring people can bring their whole selves to work."
Blakes last year launched several programs that encourage staff to speak about challenges arising from their different backgrounds and experiences, including race, religion, sexual orientation and mental health - areas that often have been kept hidden from view. "Inclusiveness is more important than ever," Jackson says, "as the world is these days increasingly characterized by negative discourse about diversity. People need to feel totally comfortable at work."
For his part, Blakes partner and bankruptcy specialist Linc Rogers sees a three-stage, and ongoing, evolution in the firm's diversity policies during his 20 years with the firm. "At first, we were focused on non-discrimination and non-harassment in the workplace, and our efforts were mostly reacting to negative situations," he says. "Then, we moved to creating an environment where these issues don't arise. Now, we are learning how to leverage our diversity and inclusiveness for a strategic and competitive advantage."
Rogers explains: "We want the best talent, regardless of background. At the same time, we also know that diversity around the table produces creative energies. So, if we create an environment that values diversity and inclusion, then we will attract the best and the brightest and get the best ideas. And from a business perspective, presenting a diverse face will also attract more clients."
Rogers, a long-standing member of the firm's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, helped create and implement its Ally Program last year, designed to demonstrate the importance of creating on-the-ground supporters of inclusivity initiatives. Along with a client, Blakes organized a panel discussion on the importance of showing support for diverse colleagues. Later, the participants broke into small groups to consider scenarios that might present an inclusiveness challenge and how to intervene, such as when overhearing a joke that could be offensive to others.
For her part, Jackson says: "It's powerful for everyone to hear that it's okay to discuss such issues. If we are to be truly inclusive, we can't let any barriers get in the way."
Indeed, Rogers adds that too many lawyers for too many years left their true selves at home. "To fit in, they pretend to be someone else at the office, laughing at stories they don't find funny, talking about subjects they are not interested in," he adds. "Instead, if they feel comfortable bringing their authentic personas to work, they will clearly be happier and more productive."